Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014
Communing With the Father
Prayer is an act of communion. Through it we discourse with Yahweh. He speaks to us when we study His Word; we speak to Him when we respond in prayer. Prayer is always linked with the Word. The lamps were tended in the Holy Place, at the time when the incense was burned upon the golden altar. When prayer and the word are our daily delight, we experience, in measure, what Moses experienced in the Tabernacle. "And when Moses was gone into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with God, then he heard the voice of One speaking unto him from off the mercy seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and he spake unto Him" (Num. 7:89). Moses directly conversed with God. What a tremendous act of condescension on the part of Yahweh; what a great privilege to hear His Voice! We can do this when we blend the study of the Word with Prayer.
The Word will enable us to look at life, including our own problems, from the standpoint of God and thus will assist us to pray as we ought. Unless the mind is prepared by the Word, we do not know the particular thing, or failing, for which we should be praying. The Word, however, enlivens the mind in spiritual matters, and revealing to us our true state before God, develops in us the wisdom to pray for help when and where it is needed.
What a tremendous privilege it is that we have freedom of access through Christ unto the King of heaven. Let us appreciate, treasure, and use this privilege.
The Power of Prayer
Sisters will find prayer to be a very important element of success in overcoming difficulties. There are many instances on record of women who feared God, and whose prayers were heard and answered according to their requests. Their lives were like our own, made up of the common place and ordinary occurrences of daily duty in the household. The desires and aspirations that animated their breasts were the same as animate ourselves. They were subject to like passions as we are; were like ourselves encompassed with weakness; yet their prayers were heard, because they put their trust in God. When we call to remembrance the examples on record where help was visibly vouchsafed to those who prayed to God in the hour of need, we do well to consider whether we individually take full advantage of this blessed privilege. True it is that the promises of God belong especially to the nation of Israel; but are we less Israel than the Israel of old? Do we not know that by our obedience to the truth, we are adopted into the family of him to whom the promises were made, and are therefore no longer aliens, but of the household of faith? This we do know, and ought therefore to live up to the fact that God is to us the Hearer and Answerer of prayer.
We cannot come to the door of the tabernacle or the temple with our offerings, like the women of old. We have a new way of approach, even the Lord Jesus who is at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens: our high priest and intercessor. We are assured by those whom he sent to spread his name, that all who come unto God in this new and living way, will obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This we have on the authority of Paul (Heb. 10:19-20). How often we feel that this is just what we want -- a refuge in the time of trouble, "help in the time of need!" Surely, amid the accumulating cares of life, feeling oftentimes the need of wisdon, to guide, of courage and strength to pursue the steady path of duty amid conflicting elements, we shall do unwisely if we neglect to retire to our closets and make our requests known unto God. He will hear us when we pray, for He cannot lie, and He has said, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me" (Psa. 50:15; Heb. 13:5-6; James 4:8). Paul also encourages the same attitude of mind toward God. He says, "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2).
Many prayerful songs of thanksgiving are on record, of those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. How delightful to rejoice before the Lord with such a song of thanksgiving upon our lips as this (Psalm 28:7):
"The Lord is my Strength and my Shield;
Let the adopted daughters of the house of Israel, in these latter days, follow the example of the holy women of old, in supplicating the Most Holy in whatever matters they have need; let them accept the help of God, and let their songs of thanksgiving ascend. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and are safe." (Prov. 18:10). With such a strong refuge, they may trust to be sustained. -Jane Roberts
There is no exhaustion of God's power. He takes charge of the great things in our lives and undertakes for us in the smallest matters also. There are a multitude of mercies with Him; and abundant answer will be given to all our pleadings (Psa. 69:15). Whatever waters of sorrow or temptation we may sink into, whatever floods of trouble may seem to overwhelm us, let us persevere in prayer.
Consider Hannah's example. Her story is well known. Hannah longed for a child, but it was denied her until after much prayer she was granted her request, and received the desire of her heart. She was to become a mother and so fulfil the wish of every woman in Israel. Motherhood was particularly desirable in Israel, for the covenant promised that the "seed of the woman" would bruise the serpent power, and every Godly woman desired to contribute to that end. So Hannah hoped and prayed, and hoped and prayed again, until, in the goodness of God, her ardent ambition was realised in the birth of little Samuel.
Did Hannah then, in her excess of joy and the love that she poured out upon the child, forget her obligations to God? By no means! Having experienced the goodness of Yahweh in the birth of Samuel she turned to Yahweh in fervent thanksgiving. More, she attempted to repay God, and so endorse the genuineness of her thanks, by a most generous act of unselfishness: she gave the child back to Yahweh. Her thanks were endorsed by sacrifice. Yahweh's gift to her found response in her gift to Yahweh.
What a wonderful example. We often pray for things; do we remember to thank God in return when the prayer has been answered? Thanksgiving is a gracious act of recognition of benefits received. What is the normal reaction to circumstances when a generous warmhearted deed that has been unselfishly done for another is taken for granted, or is received coldly, or with indifference? Is it not one of hurt? Is it not a divine command that we "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18)? Let us be warm in our expressions of thanks one to another; and above all to God. -H.P.M.
No man will reach the kingdom without prayer, and prayer to be effectual must proceed from lips which are sincere and upright (Psa. 145:18). God will not hear those who keep not His commandments (Prov. 15:29; Psa. 66:18). The prayers of the disobedient are worse than useless, they are an abomination in God's ears (Prov. 28:9). Let us then examine ourselves, and pray simply, fervently unceasingly. Let us pay no heed to the objections of men who tell us that prayer is beneath the notice of a Great Creator, that it is superfluous, and, if answered, would mean a violation of Nature's laws. Till the Bible is demolished we can afford to leave such objections severely alone. The Bible is full of encouragement in the matter of prayer. Hannah prayed for a child, and got one (2 Sam. 1:11,20); Abraham's servant prayed for a good wife for Isaac, and met with a favourable response (Gen. 24). Much that is beyond the power of finite man to see and grasp has to be taken into account before his prayer can be answered. We sometimes forget this when things do not go just as we would wish. Let us remember, too, that this is a day for walking by faith, and that all prayer is answered in harmony with this divine arrangement. -A.T.J
Prayer ought to consist chiefly of three things: The expression of our sincere adoration of God's greatness and excellence; the giving of thanks for His goodness, as multitudinously manifested, both to the race and ourselves individually; and supplication for the various things we need, among which stands, first, the consummation of Yahweh's purpose in the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David, and all that that involves.
The Privilege of Prayer
We have this assurance: "The effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). And again, "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matt. 21:22). We do believe it! Therefore we have confidence and receive strength from the very act of sending forth our petitions in prayer.
It is apparent, that while we who have learnt and accepted the way of truth are privileged to be able to approach the Father in prayer and be heard, we can also lose this privilege. A solemn thought! The children of Israel provide our example. They were God's chosen people and privileged to present their petitions to Him. Yet we read in Ezekiel 20:1-3 of the time when God would hear them no more. "Are you come to enquire of Me? As I live, saith the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you." And the reason is stated clearly in Isaiah 29:13: "This people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart from me." So John exhorts us, "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue (as did Israel), but in deed and in truth." "Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight."
It matters not when or where we send forth our prayers, God will hear them if they proceed from the heart. Nevertheless, there is a suitable mode of addressing Him. Solomon exhorts: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God.... be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few" (Ecc. 5:2). Jesus emphasised this principle in His Discourse on the Mount, and gave us the perfect prayer as an example -- in five short verses! We must remember our position. Vain repetitions, extravagant language, and a dramatic style do not impress God.
What a responsibility, then, is attached to this wonderful privilege of being permitted to approach the Throne of Grace in prayer, assured that our prayers will be heard. By this means, we draw near in faith, make known our desires, and gain thereby strength, courage, and help in time of need. By its means, we honour His great Name, in rendering praise and thanksgiving for the many wonderful blessings showered upon us every day. -E.B.W.
Guiding The Children
After herself, a mother's spiritual solicitude will be for her children. The question has sometimes been raised whether we ought to teach our children to pray? I am persuaded that with a thorough acquaintance with the Scriptures, such a question never could be raised. We have the apostolic injunction to bring the children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In what way are we to carry out this injunction? What shape shall our instructions take? We shall tell our children of God's wonderful works in the days of old, of His goodness to those who trusted and obeyed Him; of His wrath and power manifested upon wicked men who feared Him not; of His goodness to us, that everything we have and enjoy comes from Him; that He makes the sun to shine and the rain to fall, that we may be supplied with food from the good things which the field and garden yield. Telling them of these things which come on the just and unjust alike, shall we omit to tell them of the time, close at hand, when He will send the Lord Jesus Christ to establish a glorious state of things upon earth, in which only those will share His love, who obey and trust Him now? If there be any preference, it will be shown for the unsearchable riches to which our children, equally with ourselves, may attain. Such daily instruction will not fail to provoke within them a desire to be among those whom God will love and bless in the day of the manifestation of His sons. This desire will find expression in their talk. We delight to hear them express such desires to ourselves. Shall we restrain them, if they wish to express them to God? We teach them to thank an earthly friend who bestows upon them a gift, and consider it a breach of good manners if they omit the ceremonial, and shall we teach them to be less respectful to the Heavenly Giver of every good thing? To this it is said by some, "but the children are not in a position to approach God; none but those who believe the truth and have been immersed, can acceptably pray to God." Regarding the eternal relationship of sons, this is true, but shall we shut them out of the relation that is actually theirs? They are creatures of His hand. They may thank Him for their being as such. They are possible candidates for sonship. They may, like Cornelius, present their aspirations in prayer to be guided into that relation. Shall we forbid a child to say? "O Lord, I am a poor child of the dust. I desire to be an heir of life everlasting, through Christ, Lead me into the way," If a sinner's "Lord be merciful to me a sinner," was heard, who shall shut the mouth of an instructed child who is daily progressing to maturer knowledge of divine things? Much hurtful neglect has come from wrong views on this question: or rather the mis-application of a right view.
We know that God heareth not sinners, and that the prayers of the wicked are an abomination to Him; but the children of believers are not of that class. The sinner and the wicked of these statements are of that class that are given over to transgression, and it is with reason that they should not be heard; but our children are the seed of the righteous, whom the Lord has promised to bless. They are the children of the household, and are being prepared, in order that they may become acceptable worshippers when their understanding is sufficiently developed to comprehend what is required of them. Meanwhile, when their hearts are stirred to thank Him for the good things they enjoy, for the food they eat, and for the comforts of home and the beautiful world outside, let us not restrain their thanksgiving; but rather teach and encourage them to acknowledge God in all these things. Christ took an interest in the children when he was upon earth, contrary to the expectations of his disciples, who sought to prevent the mothers intruding their children upon his attention. He took them up in his arms and blessed them, and surely he would be pleased now with the effort to develop their minds in a direction pleasing to him. God himself we are told, hears the ravens when they cry (Psa. 147:9) and the young lions roar after their prey and seek their meat from God (Psa. 104:21). If He is mindful of the inferior creatures of His power, doubtless He will regard those to whom a higher destiny is offered. -Jane Roberts
Man is small and life is short, and the issues of futurity are immeasurable and can only be truly judged by unerring wisdom ... For this reason all our petitions should be qualified, recognising the will of God as the supreme Regulator. We should in everything give thanks and in all our petitions subordinate our own ideas and wishes to the perfect will of God.
Children And Prayer
Shall we teach our little ones to pray? This question, for a reason easy to explain, has troubled many a God-fearing parent.
Worship according to the Scriptures, is the privilege of the saints; none else is invited by God to share in it. Such being the case, the troubled ones have asked: Is it consistent with the divine institution to instruct unbaptised children to pray?
Dr. Thomas contended that, in view of the scriptural conditions which are attached to acceptable worship, children should not be asked to pray (Herald Vol. 2 page 23, Vol. 9 p. 132). Bro. Roberts thought it permissible for them to do so; provided the children were made to understand that they had no spiritual relationship whatever; that their approach to God was simply that of creatures to a Creator (Ambassador, Vol. 3, 184, 185 Christadelphian Vol. 20, 177). When we ponder the scriptural argument of these two brethren, we have for our own part to confess that God has neither invited prayer from any out of Christ, nor directly forbidden such approach. Let those who say they follow Bro. Roberts in teaching their children to pray be careful to heed the qualifications he mentions. God is not pleased with words uttered unintelligently, nor "the mere mutterings of unreasoning animals". Prayer must ascend from minds instructed and obedient. Both Bro. Thomas and Bro. Roberts counsel, in harmony with God's own arrangements in Israel, that the children should be kept near to witness our religious exercises (at the meal table and in our assemblies) but especially should they be encouraged to become true worshipping saints by learning, believing, and obeying the Truth.
Prayer and Praise Poem by Sister Betty Flint
Yahweh Elohim, name of the Just,
Strengthen Thy children, now called to be Thine,
Father our hearts yearn to know Thee aright,
Name of the glory to Moses revealed,
If error assail us, O help Thou our need
Help Thou our weakness, and in it make strong
And never may pride with its fellows all vile
Keeping Company With Christ
The sister will be assisted in her determination to consecrate herself to Christ, by the daily reading of the scriptures. Other reading wisely selected may have a useful place, but the reading of the scriptures she ought to regard and practice as an imperative duty. Let her at all hazards read some every day; this will to some extent be keeping company with Christ himself, for he is the great theme of the sacred book. He is the beginning and ending of it. To him all the types and shadows point. In him is centred all the hope of the future glory foretold by the prophets. He is the burden of their theme. In the narratives concerning his sayings and doings while on earth, there is the opportunity of making close acquaintance with him, whose meat and drink it was to do the will of Him who sent him. By the study of his gracious words, may she be purified and assimilated to his divine character, and greatly aided in her resolve to devote herself to knowing and doing the will of her Father who is in Heaven.
She cannot keep him company personally like the sisters who ministered to him in the days of his flesh: but she will know that there are many ways in which she can keep him company. As long as he has brethren and sisters, and the truth is in the earth to be countenanced, encouraged, and served; she will remember that he has said, whatsoever is done faithfully to one of the least of his disciples, he regards as done to himself. She will therefore have plenty of ways in which to show her love to her absent Lord, by the keeping of his commandments. She will want as much time as ever she can command for gaining the knowledge of himself, and the Father's glorious purpose concerning him which the scriptures reveal in all the manifold aspects in which he is therein represented. -Jane Roberts
On Reading The Bible
Let your reading be private, individual, and at the right time of day. Reading with others is good in its place, but cannot serve the purpose of private study. The mind cannot, in company, settle to the subject with that thoroughness of grip that is needful for thorough results. Do your Bible readings by yourself, whatever luxury you may indulge in with your friends. And let it be at a time when your faculties are wide awake. To put if off to the last thing, just before going to bed, after your pith has been spent on other things, is not doing justice to yourself or to God. A little extra Bible reading at such a time, such as a psalm or a chapter from the epistles is very well as a soothing finish to the day, but to leave your whole Bible reading till then is to attend to it under conditions that almost preclude the possibility of your getting the intended good. -R. Roberts
The Bible Reading Companion takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year!
The Bible Companion is a bond of fellowship among brethren and sisters throughout the world. All who use it are within the space of twenty-four hours, reading the same words, guided into the same channels of holy thought, moved in ways which can find expression in related prayer, made strong before the throne of grace because they speak as one.
Seeking Spiritual Success
Without the daily reading of the scriptures, and meditation thereon, there is no chance of success in the endeavour to put on the new man. There is so much in us by nature to hinder and oppose the work, that we shall certainly be defeated if we do not use amply the aid within our reach in this life-long struggle. First of these aids is the diligent and attentive reading of the Word daily. Do not allow a day to pass without reading. You may think it does not much matter, or that you can make it up by reading a double portion tomorrow. It matters a great deal. In the first place, you miss the sustaining power for the day which you would have had if you had read, and you also miss the closer communion with God himself which is brought to you in His Word; and the comfort and strength you will have enjoyed in the company of those who are undoubtedly presented to us in the Scriptures as the approved of God. Then if you try to read up, you cannot well digest so large a quantity of mental food; you are liable to have more than you can deal with in one day, and some of the precious words are sure to be overlooked. By far the better way is to read every day, and all the appointed portions if you can. They furnish variety and profitable food for thought by day and also by night, if you happen to have any waking moments. The daily reading of the Scriptures need not prevent you from reading other books that would be helpful to you; but be sure that what you read is really helpful.
I have heard of some professing the truth to make a practice of reading light literature, novels and periodical publicatons of a sensational character. I cannot, my dear young sisters, too urgently beg of you to refrain from so injurious a habit. You might as well put poison into your food and expect to enjoy good health, as to indulge in such mental food and expect the spiritual welfare of a saint. If you are in earnest about securing Christ's favour, you will not hesitate to cut off that fleshly lust. You will feel repaid for doing so by the much greater ability you will possess to concentrate your mind upon the scriptures, when unclouded by the highly wrought images of merely fictitious and sensational stories, which only unfit the mind for grappling with the realities of life. What a very different effect is produced upon the mind by the reading of any of the histories recorded in Scripture. You feel stimulated by them to courage and perseverance, even in the most obscure occupation of life, because you have your faith quickened in the direction of things unseen at present. You are reminded that your efforts are not in vain, though no human eye witnesses them. God regards those who fear Him, and has their names in remembrance. You are helped by the record of what others have done in the name and in the strength of the Lord, to realize that you also may be thus helped and, in due time, acknowledged. You find the Scriptures, when you really give your mind to the study of them, in harmony with human experience, and suited to every day wants and necessities. If you are joyful, you find full expression to your joy, and a solid foundation for it. If you are sorrowful, you find in the Scriptures that sympathy and perfect response which you can find in no other book, and a comfort which alone can touch the unapproachable sorrow of an overwhelming affliction. -By Jane Roberts (read by her husband). At a tea meeting of young sisters held in Athenaenum Hall Thurs. Dec. 29th, 1881.
Three-fourths of the popular novels of the day enfeeble the intellect, impoverish the imagination, vulgarize the taste and style, give false or distorted views of life, and human nature, and, which is worst of all, waste that precious time which should be given to solid mental improvement. -Logos Vol. 1
In how many Christadelphian homes is it still the practice for the host to say to the casual Christadelphian visitor, or the week-end speaker, "Have you had your readings today?" and for the guests to answer truthfully, "Not yet, but if I had, it would be a pleasure to repeat them. Let us have them together." There are still some such homes, but there are not enough. We could do with being thoroughly old-fashioned about this. When we meet in one another's homes the Bible should be out, the readings read aloud, and, (for why should our praises be limited to public meetings), why not hymns sung once again around the piano? It would be good for our singing, and good for our spiritual health.
O how love I Thy law, it is my meditation all the day.
Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Thy testimonies are my meditation.
I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Thy precepts.
I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that might keep Thy word.
I have not departed from Thy judgments, for thou hast taught me.
How sweet are Thy words unto my taste, yea sweeter than honey to my mouth
Through Thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
Setting An Objective
We must have purpose in our reading. So many read the Bible aimlessly. They do it as a duty, or, perhaps, because they love the Book. But they are not seeking for something as they read; they have no plan in mind. They do a lot of reading, but they gain little knowledge.
For years I have adopted a practice in Bible reading that I have found to be of great help. I follow the Bible Companion reading chart, but I am always searching for references to support other subjects. Each year I decide upon a subject, and any time I come upon a reference to it in the daily readings, I note it in a book that I always have with me. In addition, when a new book of the Bible is commenced, I might set myself the task of looking for references that show how that particular writer treats with a specific subject. This task has a two-fold effect: (1) I dare not miss a chapter in the daily readings in case it contains some reference to the subject I am following; (2) The reading becomes intensely interesting, like a treasure hunt, for I do not know what each day will bring forth. No longer does my mind wander on to other things; I read with a purpose in mind, and thus have to concentrate on the matter in hand.
One year, I set myself the task of noting all the places in the Bible where reference is made to the House of Prayer to be erected in Jerusalem, in the Age to Come. Each verse was carefully scrutinised for hidden or open references to this subject, with the result that I not only found many references to the Temple that I never knew existed previously, but I also derived much more pleasure and profit from every verse I read. I next wrote all these references out in full in a book (there were well over a hundred of them), ready to sectionise them; and as I did this, my knowledge of the subject was advancing all the time. Instead of the Temple being something vague and indefinite, it assumed shape and substance in my mind, and became a thrilling subject to think upon. On another occasion, when commencing to read the Prophecy of Jeremiah, I decided to take note of all references made therein to the future of Israel. Again the result was a revelation, as I pondered verse after verse. As an example, consider Jeremiah 3:21 to Ch. 4:2. This Scripture undoubtedly refers to the future redemption of Israel as the context clearly shows. But when these verses are carefully considered, what a revelation they give. Notice v.22, and the invitation of Yahweh: "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." Notice the response of Israel in that day: "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art Yahweh our God" (v.22). Notice the recognition of past blindness, and the humbling of themselves before Yahweh, and confession of sin in vv. 23-25. Notice the conditions then set before Israel for their acceptance again into favour, contained in Jer. 4:1-2. So there is built up in the mind a graphic picture of how Israel will be grafted in again, at the appearing of the Messiah; a picture that when linked with other Scriptures becomes more boldly defined in outline.
The first essential in the pleasureable and profitable study of the Word is to have an objective, and aim for it. Do not read this wonderful Book aimlessly. Always have a subject in mind when you turn to it. Always have a notebook and pencil at hand as you read. If you find a verse you do not understand, make a note of it, and do not be satisfied until you have an explanation of it. Set out to cover a subject, or to study in detail a whole book. By these means your pleasure and profit from Bible study will grow, and you will come to delight in that which previously may have been a boredom to you. -H.P.M.
The Bible never grows stale, also does not open its treasures to the careless and casual reader.
The Best Time For Reading
The morning, or at least early in the day, is the most suitable time, so far as profitableness is concerned. The mind is more free to receive impressions then than when the business of the day is in full swing. At a later period, the mind is generally too pre-occupied to give it that close attention which is necessary. And again there is this advantage in reading early in the day, that the mind is sustained throughout the day's occupation by the impetus received from the reading. The duties of some may not admit of morning reading. Each must wisely determine for herself at what time of the day she can best secure the benefit. Once the practice is begun, it is necessary to persevere. For this some determination is necessary. Put not off your reading to a time when, from preoccupation or weariness, your mind is unfitted to profit by the exercise. It may not be always practicable for the married sister to secure her reading at the same time or hour of the day; still, if she persevere in the attempt, even in spite of hindrances -- the presence of little ones not excepted -- she will be astonished at what she can accomplish, and will surely secure the prize, and reap enduring benefit.
Unfavourable circumstances may be turned to excellent account in this way. It has not infrequently happened that a mother with a young infant has secured more opportunities for reading, than under ordinary circumstances, because she has snatched her book whenever she sat down to suckle her baby, and so availed herself of an opportunity to increase her knowledge which might not otherwise have presented itself, and which is overlooked or thought impossible by many. As her family increases, her ingenuity in this matter will be brought into play. She will devise ways and means for continuing this most indispensable aid to sustenance in the path of life. Persevering in it, she will the more and more easily continue to secure the privilege of reading, because, as time goes on, she will learn to prize it above all price, and to regard it as a thing as necessary as daily food. She will find herself trained at last, to forego something else rather than lose her reading. -Jane Roberts